Studentessa No More

My four weeks of Italian classes went by too fast. I learned a lot, including how much more study and practice it will take to speak Italian very comfortably. This month brought me a small, but important step closer, and I’ll leave here with a very soft spot in my heart for Lingua Si — the school in Orvieto I attended.

As happy as I am with my diploma, I’m even happier with a real-world review of my progress. During the first few days of my visit here, I had to go to a small hardware store in nearby Castel Viscaardo to buy a phone jack. Relying on my phrase book, I was able to find the thing and make the purchase. As luck would have it, I returned to the store yesterday and completed my latest transaction without phrase book or dictionary. The clerk was very patient and even helped me with a word or two. She said she remembered me, and she was very complimentary about my Italian. She even used my all-time favorite word: brava!

Orvieto's famous Duomo

Lingua Si is an immersion program, and I took the intensivo option – 4 hours of class in the morning, and a 2-hour private lesson in the afternoon. Even though there were only 3 of us in the morning class, the difference between that and the private lesson was significant. I needed that hour and a half break and long walks through Orvieto every day to try to unscramble my brain. But this arrangement was great for me, even if I often went home exhausted — and with some homework.

I was grateful every day that I had studied Italian at School Amici in Cincinnati before I came. It was often hard to get through a day with no English, and I was glad for the foundation I had brought with me.

To a person, Lingua Si staff is patient and encouraging. Like Alessandra, my wonderful teacher, they communicated almost exclusively in Italian. As I struggled to find a word – and not resort to English, which I suspect each one of them spoke much better than they would ever let on to me – they coaxed me with their smiles and eagerness.

Alessandra, la brava insegnante (the great teacher)

Alessandra has an amazing — and entertaining — ability to  act out a concept or word. Small wonder she loves the theater! She manages to communicate in Italian unless it’s absolutely necessary to translate, and she knows from experience (she has taught for many years — at Lingua Si, at an embassy in Spain, and on a cruise ship!) when that time comes. Because it was such a shock, I remember the first time she spoke English – it was the verb “to try,” which she said softly and with a conspiratorial twinkle in her eye.

And who knew school could be such fun!? Alessandra used music (I know the lyrics to a few Italian songs), board and card games, poetry, chocolate, and mood-altering candles to keep our classes interesting. So while struggling through the authentic recorded dialogues, we had the help of chocolates, candles, and a very engaging teacher.

Finally, it wasn’t just about the language at Lingua Si. We talked a lot about Italian traditions, culture, festivals, family life, and more. I left school with much more than just new language skills. I left with new friends and a hankering to return soon.